With less than 500,000 Xboxen thought to have been sold in Japan since the console launched last year, and Tecmo's Dead or Alive-based titles the only games to top 40,000 units, Microsoft is starting to take the situation over there very seriously. Speaking at a press conference this week, Peter Moore spoke of how the company will introduce various Xbox Live updates announced at E3 to the Japanese service, while cutting down on the wait for new European and American titles with its new "Xbox World Collection".
However the somewhat bewildering decision to fight a lack of interest in Western titles with, er, more Western titles, is not the only thing Microsoft plans to do. According to Moore, the Redmonster is dropping the price of Xbox Live so that a one-month subscription is just 680 yen (around 5), a 12-month sub is 4,980 yen (36) and a Starter Kit, including the Communicator headset and a year's subscription, is just 6,800 yen (50). Microsoft is also throwing around figures of 16 new first party titles and 81 third party titles to be released in Japan in the next 12 months.
It seems that after continued troubles in the region, Microsoft is now reining the Xbox in so that it falls directly under Redmond's control, instead of delegating its control to its local subsidiary headed by Hirohisa Ohura.
"Perhaps there were mistakes," Moore said of Microsoft's Japanese effort so far. "However, I want to take the lessons we have learned from the mistakes of the past and use them in the future... I want to listen to and understand the needs of Xbox users in Japan, as well as our publishers and retailers."
Maybe we're cynical, but to us this new approach doesn't sound very different to the old one, with prices slashed again and plans to release successful titles like Splinter Cell sooner rather than later at the centre of Microsoft's strategy. The question at this point surely has to be what the software giant is really planning, because it seems inconceivable that with so much money to spend on getting it right, this is the best they could come up with for 2003 and beyond...